Fancy WiFi technology for a water tank

The three water tanks which sit in the upper pasture are about a quarter of a mile up a small incline from the house.  A nice walk, but not all that close in inclement weather. The three 4000L tanks are essential in the day to day running of the farm – we can’t fill the animal water troughs or irrigate the garden without them. Which means we tend to obsess their fill status more than a little. In order to know how much water is in the tanks, someone has to walk up the hill, knock on the side of the tank, and listen for the sound change.  Full and empty have a different vibration sound and where the sound changes indicates the water level.  Sometimes we climb up backwards on the 7 wire fence which runs just behind them, balance carefully against the tank, twist the lid off, and look in just to make sure we’re reading the water level right.

We usually have the well pump run for 45 minutes, then let it rest and let the reservoir fillf back up for an hour and then run the pump again.  It takes about four times of running the pump to fill one 4000L tank, which we can empty quickly between the garden and the animals.

Jason has been listening to us grouse about the challenges of water management since we started the farm. He has done his level best to improve the situation every time he visits. In 2014 he made us an easy simple solution to “see” when the tanks were full:  a bopper that floated to pink duck tape when the tank was full. I just stood on the porch with binoculars and looked for the coloured tape.

tank 2014

It worked for almost two years.  We had to change out the cork floats, bend the inside float arm back into place, reposition the pvc pipe stand a few times, but it was nice not to have to walk up to the tanks and knock on them.

During this time, Jason was designing a new water control system for us:

water controller 1

The new measuring system is complicated, involved, time consuming, and, according to Jason, fun!

So this year on his working vacation, he brought the parts and pieces and began assembling them.

water controller 2

First item was to “program things” to talk to each other, then test it (this step repeated a bit), then explain it to his mother.

water controller 3

Finally, it was mounted on the wall, (under the weather station display), and now we can turn the well pump on, or off, for the time we want and monitor the time.  There are also bar lights to inform us how full each of the three tanks are, so we know our water levels.

install of water controller

(Yes, this is the kitchen table, and we do clear it for meals.)

install of water controller 1

Jason explaining how the water controller works.

install of water controller complete!

It looks like Science Fiction (and flashes lights like Science Fiction) but it is successfully installed and working properly.  Thank you Jason.



Garden irrigation tank now automated

Part of our water management for the garden is keeping the irrigation water tank filled.  We have buried hose lines to various garden plots and installed drip lines.  We have nine garden plots that cannot be watered simultaneously, three open lines empty the tank within 45 minutes and it takes an hour and a half to refill the tank.  So careful attendance is paid to which plot is getting water and when.  Of course it is best to water in the mornings and the evenings, but we also have to take in account the watering of the trees that have hose lines from the main field tank and those drip lines can drain the main storage thanks rather quickly.

Anyway, Jason is visiting.  He has listened to us lament over the time it takes to manage the tanks.  We walk around with a timer clipped to our shirt to turn the water pump off or on.  So for this working vacation, he decided to help us with our water anxieties.

The first thing he did was devise a flotation device like a toilet tank to shut off the incoming water when the tank was full.

irrigation tank inside

Jason w tank


It works just like it was designed!

Water Tower Fix Phase One

We have a well. Megan talked about both it and the first building of the water tower  way back when. It provides delicious unlimited water (when the electricity is working)  to the houses and out buildings, pasture trees, green houses and garden beds via a rather complicated set of interconnected pipes, tanks, and gravity.  We also have two spring fed “ponds” on our property.  We are fortunate to have water for our needs. We certainly noticed during this last year’s drought!

The system is set up such that we pump the water from the well to the highest holding tank and then gravity keeps the lower tower tank full – the next pump (an irrigation pump vs. a well pump), pumps it out and up to next set of holding tanks. The original design of the water tower was for the upper tank to be very high up so that gravity would do the work for us. It wasn’t really necessary as one tank is directly below the other so gravity was a given. But it worked and was going to be work to change. About a year ago, the top tank started to leak; last month, the leak was more like a constant rain.  Jon has been dreading having to fix the leak and yet at the same time, he wanted to change the height of the tower. Because in any sort of wind worth talking about that tower dances. It’s a little scary. So Jon has been pondering how to do this.  Finally, he had an AHA! moment and charged ahead.

We were only without water for about 20 minutes while the “change over” happened.  Phase One of the new tank and no more water leak is complete!

water tower 1

water tower 2

water tower 3

water tower 4

water tower 5

So now the top water tank is disconnected, empty, and waiting to be taken down.  The second tank (the new tank) has been installed, connected, and filled. Next up is to disassemble the top roof  and walls, shorten the support polls and re-add the roof.  All at a later date, when other items are not higher on the to do list.   BUT YEA! no more rain on my laundry line.



Little by Little

Still working on Megan’s house. Possibly you thought no update meant no progress.Or you are the glass-is-half-full type and thought that meant we were done and didn’t need to talk about it anymore.

We are, rather, still chipping away at the project.

Megan's house 2

Megan's house 1

Mud, tape, and plaster is done.  Up next: sanding plaster, then painting, then floor, then….

Weather Station

Our son has this really cool weather station that not only let’s him view the weather data at his house, but lets others view it too.  This is really cool.  So we decided we needed one for the farm.  We bought it, brought it through customs with no tax! and Jon installed it.  It is attached to a temporary dowel, in it’s permanent home – attached to a fence post outside the front of the blue house. The dowel is temporary as it’s not quite strong enough – the wind has already caught it a few times and turned it around – so we need an iron rod. But the rain gauge works as does the rest of the sensors.

weather station 1

weather station 2

weather station 3

The wind gauge is the most exciting to watch. We can watch as the wind gets strong and the gusts stronger.  We have often wondered how strong the wind really is.  Since activating the weather station, we have seen it measure 48 kph with gusts at 56kmp. Which Jon says it really not that impressive, but if you are standing in it trying to work, it feels strong. We are also learning how to read a barometer. Storms blow in here quite often without apparent warning – but not if you keep an eye on the barometer. It’s really quite fascinating.

There is a subscription to an international site that allow others to view our personal weather station. It is free to view all the data for you weather junkies.  We do not have the web cam set up yet so you can’t see the storms roll in, but we will eventually get to it.  So for now if you are interested in our spring weather the address is:

Or you can go to: and search for “Garzon, UY” in the top-right search box. By default the result is the “Capitan Curbelo International ” weather station, listed under the Garzon, UY title at the top of the page. Then click the “Change Station” link next to that, the top listing is “La Piccolina Farm, Garz n, MALDONADO (IMALDONA5)“, woohoo! Click that to get the weather for the farm 🙂


Last summer was so dry it was all we could do to keep the few garden plots we had planted and the green houses watered.  The trees did not stand a chance.  So our fruit and nut trees are still alive for the most part, but they do not look like three year old trees.  The poor things are bearing fruit here and there but they are scraggly looking trees.  Our wind break trees are not looking any better and one set looks even worse because the cows saw something green and chomped away.

After much research and talking to many venders, Jon thinks he has the beginning of our irrigation issues solved.  So he and the guys have been working on getting the drip water lines installed.

irrigation 2

irrigation 3

irrigation 1

irrigation 5

irrigation 4

We have drip lines and water connections to all the fruit trees in the quinta.  Now we will focus on the pecans and almonds and wind break trees.  Only about 500 more trees to go before the hot weather comes. And then mulch. Lots and lots of mulch for the trees.


It’s finally raining

We’ve finally had a break in the drought – not just a few mm, but real rain. It started about a week ago. And now it won’t stop. We’re up to at least 200mm (or 8 inches), if not more, in less than a week. Which means everything is wet. Very, very wet.


We have a large lake out front (there is some bit of green (and a lot of land) under all that water), running water in the olives (down the new trenches we had put in on the sides of all rows), huge amounts of water rushing over the back tajamar walls; three inches of mud, a small pond, and boggy mulch in the chicken coop. Ruben has now realized why we dig our garden rows the way we do – so the water doesn’t wash the beds away.

The rain has now switched us from one extreme to the other – from overly warm, incredibly dry, and working very, very hard to feed everyone to overly wet, rather cold, and working very, very hard to feed everyone.

As usually happens at this time of year I’m a bit behind on the blog. However, for all those of you who think that something fascinating happened during radio silence, let me inform you that not much has happened. My parents made their annual trip to North America and I worked on keeping the farm running. I’ll shortly update y’all on what little has happened. As soon as the water subsides.

Front Trench almost Complete

Since we have had dry weather, it has made the ground perfect for the heavy equipment to be in the front pasture.  The machine has broken more times than we want to discuss, and we have had three different operators too.  So while there are a few “tweaks” we would have liked to be done, the trench is finished for now.  (The machine is at it’s home and is once again broken.)

Jon and cano

This is in our front pasture across from the white house, we call it the triangle pasture because of it’s shape.  We now have a road to get the pick up to this part of the property, and a small pond for the animals where there was only a soggy bog and stream.

front cano

It is fed by a spring further along the cannel, so even though there has been no rain, this is filling with water.  Now the water is in one place instead of spread out making a squishy mess.

ducks and cano

If you look carefully, you can see the ducks in the cannel.  They love this new swimming hole and have left the geese in the eucalyptus grove and hang our here all day.

It’s not quite done. There are four things left to tweak. But let’s not discuss that. Just admire the pretty watering whole and our feathered friends, okay?

Sad times

Our property goes behind us a good ways.  From the front corner to the back, following the fence line, is a mile.  In the back quadrant we have a section for some sheep.  The only way to see those sheep is to go to the back.  There is nothing back there but pasture land, we corner with two neighbors who have vaqueros who check their herds about once a week.  Nice gentlemen.

Well, last Sunday as Jon was doing his fence patrol, he discovered that someone had stolen the battery to our solar charging unit for our fence.

batttery 1

At first Jon thought someone just vandalized it – cut the wires and threw the battery into the field.  He went looking, but no battery.  These things are expensive, so someone who knew it was there must have felt they needed it more than the sheep.

Jon spent this Sunday, attaching a new battery, and now the sheep are where they are suppose to be.  Whoever did it  did not need the sheep, just the battery.

battery 2

Green house structures complete!

YEA all three green house structures are complete!  Each one is 750 square feet of planting space, complete with water access.  Megan has two green houses in the planting process and the third is being fixed as work space as well as a place to start seedlings.  Visible progress!

greenhouse 12

Green house number one is the closest with the door open, with two and three following up the incline.  The planting boxes are stacked outside the door on the right because we are working on the inside.

greenhouse 11

We are putting down the last of our packing paper on the ground and covering it with Tosca to keep the weeds down.  The workbench is in place, and Jon has dug the trench to bury the water line.  It is getting there poco a poco.